Washington • The Senate confirmed lawyer Robert Shelby as a federal judge for Utah late Friday, filling a vacancy that court officials said was causing a judicial emergency.
The Senate, finishing up its last work before adjourning until after Election Day, approved Shelby by a voice vote.
Federal court officials said earlier this summer that with cases piling up in Utah, filling the vacant judgeship was a must-do for the Senate.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who had supported Shelby, praised the confirmation vote.
“Bob is a good man who has studied our laws inside and out, and he’s going to make a great addition to our District Court in Utah,” Hatch said Saturday. “He’s a hard worker who’s given his time in public service and defended the law in private practice as well.”
President Barack Obama nominated Shelby in December 2011 and the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in April to back his selection. His confirmation, though, was held in limbo as Republicans and Democrats sparred over judicial picks this summer.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the only committee member to vote against the nominee in committee — an act of protest against Obama’s controversial recess appointments made in January.
His “no” vote aside, Lee said he supports the nominee, crediting him with being a “pre-eminently qualified lawyer” who will be an “outstanding judge.”
This follows a recent string of opposing votes cast by the protesting Utah senator, including one for Utah’s David Nuffer, who was confirmed by the Senate in March. Lee has since dropped his opposition to Obama’s nominees.
Shelby graduated from Utah State University and later from the University of Virginia Law School in 1998. He clerked for U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Greene and spent eight years in the Utah Army National Guard, serving on active duty as a combat engineer during Operation Desert Storm.
Most recently, Shelby has worked for the Salt Lake City firm Snow, Christensen & Martineau as a commercial litigator and personal injury attorney.